A beautifully sunny day, 400 people, 30 unique beers on tap and unlimited pours—what might sound like the foundation for a ruckus affair of over-indulgence and belligerence was anything but. In fact, it was one of the tamest event days in the history of Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens. That’s what happens when you pack the joint with homebrewers and genuine craft beer connoisseurs united in their noble mission to not only taste, but evaluate the merits of each beer for the purpose of selecting a champion to grace store shelves nationwide. Enter Stone’s fifth annual AHA Rally and Homebrew Competition.
Thanks to Stone Enjoy By IPA and our hop-forward brewing style, our brewery is viewed as a vocal proponent of the drink-fresh-beer-now movement. That’s fitting. We believe in that big time—when it’s appropriate. At the same time, we’re not above taking a quality brew (even an IPA) and aging it in oak barrels if we think we can morph that fine ale into an other-worldly, delicious, wine- or spirit-laced concoction. Such is the modus operandi behind our Quingenti Millilitre line of barrel-aged Stone beers.
Even with enthusiasm and knowledge at an all-time high among craft brewing fans, certain styles come across as a bit mysterious to the average beer nerd. Chief among those head-scratchers is barley wine. Is it a wine?—No. Is it a strong ale? –Yes. Is it an old ale?—Well, kinda. Is it delicious?—In the case of Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine, absolutely! Ditto a number of versions both European and American (the latter being Anchor Old Foghorn and Rogue Old Crustacean), which led our co-founder and original brewmaster, Steve Wagner, to create his own take on it in 1998. Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine (or O.G. as we refer to it around the brewery) has since gone on to become one of our most happily anticipated annual releases.
When Stone’s co-founder and original brewmaster, Steve Wagner, set out to brew our company’s first beer, he led with his love for the old English standard—pale ale. This was a common style among the small but rising number of American microbreweries at the time; however, Wagner decided early on that Stone Pale Ale would be anything but common.
A porter brewed with peat-smoked malt and enough hops to bring the IBU (International bittering unit) count to 53 is undoubtedly innovative. That beer concept is right up there with the plethora of novel smoked ales and lagers that have become so prominent across the county over the past several years. But the beer we’re referring to, Stone Smoked Porter, isn’t among that new wave. It’s been tantalizing taste buds while hovering within the top layer of craft beer’s cloud of smoke since 1996!
During last year’s San Diego Beer Week, we conducted an experiment in the name of creativity and good taste, enlisting a dozen of our brewers to craft cask versions of Stone beers, dry-hopping and infusing them with highly flavorful ingredients. Those 12 casks and the brewers were assembled at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens along with a dozen personally monogramed mallets. Then, at the stroke of four post-meridian, the brewers tapped their casks and served them to hordes of thirsty Stone fans.
It was an expanded take on the Stone Brewer’s Cask events we hold each Thursday afternoon at the Bistro and, in addition to being a wildly good time, the event provided a stunning and varied taste of the ingenuity and skill our talented brewers bring to the table. It was far too magnificent to do just once, so we’re turning it into a series of events. The exact frequency has yet to be determined, but we know for sure that the next edition of 12 Brewers, 12 Casks, 12 Mallets will take place 5 p.m. on Wednesday, February 6 at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens.
When Stone co-founder and original brewmaster Steve Wagner crafted our initial batch of Stone IPA, little could he have known that that highly hopped first attempt at amplifying a British classic would become so popular and, for many beer drinkers, an India pale ale by which all future New World interpretations of the style would be judged. For many, Wagner’s bright, potent creation was their first IPA. (Was it yours? If so, let us know on social media using #StoneIPA)
At Stone, we go to painstaking lengths to hand-pick the most talented and innovative individuals we can to fill out and enhance Team Stone. While our beer is what keeps our fans coming back for more, it’s the people behind the beer and this company that have gotten us to where we are today.
As you can imagine, we like to keep our people close to us—especially our brewmaster, Mitch Steele. The guy’s awesome! Good thing, because we have a consistently heavy production workload for him. Due to that and his terrific work ethic, the poor guy hasn’t had a proper vacation in some time. But, as much as we love him and want to keep him near, we were happy to grant him a recent request to take some time and head to Northern California. Mitch wisely hopped a plane before a brewhouse emergency led to that hall pass being revoked.
We’ve said it time and time again—one of the most rewarding aspects of being in the craft beer biz is engaging with fans who are not just proponents of ours, but fellow appreciators of high quality beer. Like us, our fans help to spread the good word about what good craft beer is all about. That pushing forward of information and education about a superior quaffable medium has been extraordinarily apparent in the engagement and interaction inspired by our über-fresh, über-hoppy Stone Enjoy By IPA.
It seems like we say this every twelve months (probably because we do), but this has been a huge year for us at Stone. Perhaps the biggest yet. Things never slow down here, and that’s the way we like it. Truth be told, we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves if we had a spare moment! So a heartfelt thank you goes out to each and every one of our fans for ensuring we maintain the breakneck pace we’ve become so accustomed to.
Despite our infatuation with constant rapid progress, we feel compelled to take a moment, be it ever so brief, to reflect on the year gone by. A lot happened in our brewhouse, at our restaurant, in our community and beyond. This was a very good year, one that should be fully remembered for years to come. In that spirit, we submit to you, our valued fans, a retrospective of 2012 at Stone.